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Mary Ellen Richmond (1861-1928)

Mary Richmond was an outstanding practitioner, teacher, and theoretician who formulated the first comprehensive statement of principles of direct social work practice. Born in Belleville, Illinois, she joined the Baltimore Charity Organization as an assistant treasurer at the age of 28. In 1981t her administrative duties led to her appointment as general secretary. In addition to her assigned duties, she volunteered as a friendly visitor.

Concerned about the frequent failures of cases to respond to service, in 1897 she delivered her historic speech at the National Conference of Charities and Correction, calling for schools to train professional social workers. In 1899, she published the first comprehensive presentation of practical suggestions, Friendly Visiting Among the Poor.

In 1900, Ms. Richmond became general secretary of the Philadelphia Society for Organizing Charity. During her tenure, she emphasized the need for volunteer effort. She also fought to obtain legislation for deserted wives and founded the Pennsylvania Child Labor Committee, the Public Charities Association, the juvenile court, and the Housing Association.

Between 1905 and 1909, Ms. Richmond was associated with Charities, which developed teaching materials for Charity Organization Societies nationwide. She then became director of the Russell Sage Foundation's Charity Organization Department in New York City. She also taught and did research at the New York School of Philanthropy.
From 1910 through 1922, she developed and headed summer institutes attended by secretaries of charity organization societies from all parts of the country. Her most celebrated book, Social Diagnosis, was based on her lectures and on her wide readings in history, law, logic, medical social work, psychology, and psychiatry. Widely hailed as evidence of the professionalization of social work, it was the first formulation of theory and method in identifying the problems of clients. In 1922, she defined social case wok as "those processes which develop personality through adjustments consciously effected, individual by individual, between men and their social environment."

Ms. Richmond's other publications include The Good Neighbor in the Modem City (1907) and What is Social Casework? An Introductory Description (1922).

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